More Than 755 Colleges Now “Test-Optional”

University Testing

FairTest Examiner - January 2008

FairTest’s list of colleges which admit all or substantial portions of their first year student bodies without requiring the submission of ACT or SAT scores
now totals 756. The latest institution to adopt such a policy is Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

With the addition of Augustana, 32 of the nation’s top 120 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, are now test-optional. More than three dozen schools have dropped standardized exam mandates since heavily promoted “new” versions of the ACT and SAT were introduced in the spring of 2005. Admissions staff, faculty and administrators at many other colleges are reviewing their testing mandates.

Going test-optional was “a natural” for Augustana, according to W. Kent Barnds, the college’s vice president for enrollment. He explained, “The best way to predict a student’s success in college is by reviewing the individual’s high school curriculum, academic performance and activities outside the classroom. A four-hour exam just doesn’t provide the whole picture.”

Augustana applicants who choose not to submit test scores will be required to provide a graded paper from their junior or senior year in high school and have an interview with the admissions office. “As a liberal arts college, we seek those students who have something to contribute to the discussion, debate and inquiry that goes on at Augustana,” Vice President Barnds continued. “Understanding the student’s ability to communicate face-to-face and through writing is of utmost value.”

Promoting equity along with excellence was also a strong motivation for Augustana. “We also want to be more inviting to those students who have historically performed not quite as well on standardized tests,” Barnds added, a list he noted includes “many students from African-American, Latina/Latino and Asian American communities.”

The new Augustana policy, which was approved by a vote of the faculty, is in effect for applicants seeking admission for fall 2008.